Now that I am a little over a month into teaching my newly minted Integral Martial Arts class in Ridley, Pennsylvania, I am learning first hand how overwhelming it can be for the teacher. If you read the literature on Integral Theory, the generally accepted view of when something is considered “Integral” is if it includes consideration and honors all Stages, States, Quadrants, Lines, and Types. The abbreviation for this is AQAL, standing for “All Quadrants All Lines…etc.”

What I can tell you is there is a significant difference between gazing at your navel to map out an Integral curriculum that honors AQAL versus figuring out how to TEACH AQAL and actually include AQAL on a day-to-day basis for a 1-hour class. There just isn’t enough time. What do they mean by “include and honor” anyway? So let me offer my take on it.

As I mentioned, there isn’t enough time to make people consciously pay attention to AQAL overnight. In fact, doing so might confuse the hell out of a student that initially thinks he or she is coming to class to learn how to throw a punch. I mean, you really need to teach them how to throw the punch in the first place! So, my attitude has been that there’s no need to convey AQAL overnight. There’s time, hopefully, to introduce things little by little as the student can incorporate and integrate it into his or her consciousness. In my class I have paired down the Quadrants into the Good, the Beautiful, and the True, and renamed them the Personal, the Social, and the Physical. (See previous blog posts on this.) These names help them remember things when studying the different perspectives of techniques. First and foremost, it starts with gross motor which lies squarely in the Physical. After integrating that, the student can learn how to breath through it. Breathing starts to bring attention to the Personal, and from there we can start to talk about the gross, subtle, and causal aspects of a punch. However, again, you cannot get into those things unless the student can do the physical parts of the punch without conscious thought.

Just doing those two things are a lot, but there’s still a third (and fourth) perspective to take into account, both of which are melded into the Social aspect. This is a little easier to do. Any time an exercise is worked with a partner, it is Social. The students must consider what is happening with their partners, and they can no longer think solely about what is going on inside their own little heads, else they might wind up accidentally hurting someone else during the exercise. Doing this changes the whole thing: how it feels, how it moves. Tall students have to adjust to short students. Stiff students have to adjust to loose students. Slow students have to adjust to fast students. There’s always a meeting of minds, and a meeting in the middle somewhere. During partnered exercises, I call attention to these things as the Social. There are other things within this perspective that I can call attention to, such as the dojo itself, but I won’t get into that here. In any case, it does not necessarily require complete gross motor control to do a partnered exercise, but it sure helps. Plus, the student can tap into a partner much more easily if brain power can be diverted from keeping good form. Thus, as the students mature, they gain better insight into the Social.

So that leaves the life practice that I’m trying to help each student build outside of class, tailored specifically to the individual. There’s very little time to help them with that in class, so often what I find I do is spend a few minutes with a particular student after the class is done, and then on the next class that week I pick a different student and talk. It’s slow. It’s probably not optimal, and I’m probably going to change things as I get better and get advice here and there, but it’s going well so far.